Motorsport Memories with Carl Fogarty

Four times Superbike World Champion, Isle of Man TT legend and winner of TV’s King of the Jungle, Carl Fogarty, had got many incredible memories after a long career in the public eye.

Here he talks about his three favourite motorsport memories as part of a new series brought to you by Adrian Flux. 

You can read Fogarty’s thoughts or listen to them by clicking play on the embedded video below.

Third favourite memory – Winning the Isle of Man senior TT in 1990

It’s hard to believe it’s 30 years ago now. It was a place that has always been special to me. 

All my childhood memories are really at the Isle of Man to be fair. My father used to race so as a kid I got two weeks off school to watch my dad racing so I was there from being a one-year-old until I was 15 and then I started going on my own as I started racing.

I always wanted to win the TT, it was a big thing for me. I won the Manx GP newcomers in 85 and did my first TT in 86. It took a few years to learn the place and it wasn’t until 89 that I figured out how to win on the circuit. That was due to the fastest two guys at that time, Dave Leach and Steve Hislop, showing me how to race around the circuit and win. Then I beat them in the 750 production race the same year.

After that year was over I thought I’m going to win the big races next year, I was that confident back then.

But after winning the 750 I got a little trophy for winning the race, I was gutted. I thought you’d get a big statue trophy but that was just for the superbikes and the senior and junior TT races.

When I went back the year after I was very, very confident. Steve Hislop was the main man to beat, the only guy that could stop me from winning. He was set off in front of me and I don’t think he liked that, me being his team-mate. I got a little bit into his head. I probably wasn’t the easiest person to be around and I kind of mentally destroyed him in the practice and the first race. 

I won the first superbike race and when it came to the senior TT race day it was horrendous weather, they probably wouldn’t even run it now if it was that wet. It was pouring down.

I went off 20 seconds behind Steve and I remember winding him up, saying “I’ll catch you soon, I’ll catch you soon”. I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t really want to race that day because of the weather. 

When the race started, off I went. I pushed pretty hard to be fair, probably a little too hard in the conditions, but I’m still here now so in some ways I guess I am lucky really. A lot of people have pushed less hard than I did around there and are no longer here today. I took a few chances early on, I ran wide few places, and I caught him pretty much straight away. I cut back the 20 seconds on him in the first lap.

I think that was enough for him, he didn’t want to know after that. To be honest the race was really wet on the second lap and when I came to a pitstop the water was really bouncing off the floor of the pit lane. It was horrendous but I had quite a decent lead at that point, Steve pulled in and that was enough for him.

As the race went on the conditions started to get better and better and I was so far in front on the last lap I had time to think about it and I just thought “oh my God, I’m going to win the senior TT race”. A race I had watched my dad try to win, but the best he did was second. 

So I was coming over the mountain and I was getting very emotional, I filled up in my helmet a little bit, thinking I’m going to win the senior TT. I was kind of having a word with myself saying “come on, get a grip here”. Something could go wrong in the last few miles, you’ve got to make it home first.

I obviously made it home and won the race by 50 seconds, maybe more, and that was it, emotions, relief and the joy of winning this blue riband race at the Isle of Man TT. It was something that could never be taken from me. It was special to me then, and it still is today.

Second favourite memory – Hockenheim race win on a Honda in 1996

I switched to Honda after winning back-to-back world titles on the Ducati, I’m not sure why I switched and in hindsight if I had my time again I probably wouldn’t do it again. 

It wasn’t the easiest of starts to the season. We had a nightmare in winter testing, everywhere we went it seemed to rain. In the first race I had a big crash in practice. I eventually finished seventh or sixth. The next race was at Donnington and the results didn’t get any better there so by the time I arrived in Hockenheim I was feeling pretty low and then my mechanic got sacked which made things worse because he’d been with me most of my career.

I had a big crash again in practice, I thought I’d broken my wrist at one point but obviously I hadn’t. I just felt everything was against me. I’d never felt as low in racing. In the first race I finished fifth. My team-mate Aaron Slight won the race on the same bike as me which made it even worse. I’m the reigning world champion and I’m nowhere and not knowing where to turn.

But in the two-hour break between races I noticed something about my bike when it was being pushed back to the garage and I was walking behind. They were wheeled out and I was walking behind them both I noticed Aaron’s ride angle was really high and mine was really low and I started thinking about it. I had struggled with the stability and turning the bike and holding a line, so I told the mechanic to put my bike at the same ride angle as Aaron’s. I said “jack it right up at the rear. Let’s see what happens. I’ve got nothing to lose”. 

Even my daughter was having a go at me, saying “daddy, it’s your fault. Why are you not winning any more?” She was used to me winning a lot. I couldn’t have been any more lower than what I was. 

Anyway, the second race came and I got a hell of a start, I pretty much led into the first corner. I stayed second and third and just stuck with the leaders and grew and grew in confidence with the bike. It was working so much better than it had been before.

My confidence kept growing and growing. I got to the point during the race when I thought the bike wasn’t really the fastest one out there but I was so much faster through the corners I felt and I thought I’m going to win this race. Nothing is going to stop me winning this race. I felt I was the fastest guy out there through the chicanes. 

I just thought I must be in the right place on the last lap here and it was all about being in second place coming out of that last chicane and that’s what I did. I got into second place and followed Aaron through the chicane slip-streaming him. I couldn’t really go by him because his bike was always faster. 

But whenever he hit the brakes I hit mine later and I just thought whenever you hit the brakes I’m going after you. If that means braking in the grandstand further on, I’m not bothered, I’m not losing this race. I got on the inside of him, I had a bit of a wobble going in and I held him up and won that race from nowhere. Nobody expected it, I didn’t expect it, so from being at an all time low two hours before to a massive high after winning this first race on the Honda. 

Apparently the press centre went mad, it was like “Thank God he’s back”, and that kick-started my season and I went on to win the next race at Monza. It helped my season a lot that one win. Just a lot of things seemed to fall into place in that two-hour period. Danielle having a go at me, seeing the bikes and how different they were. I just grew in confidence the old Foggy was back and we won the race. 

Favourite memory – Winning first World Superbike title in 1994 in Phillip Island, Australia

It was a difficult year, I just missed out on winning the world championship in 1993. I should have won it but I was inconsistent. I won 12 races I think, but consistency let me down so it was something I was conscious of in 94. 

I kicked-off with a win at Donnington and in the second round I broke my wrist in Hockenheim of all places. Scott Russell [the main competition] was inconsistent for a while and then I came back and won some races. It was toing the froing throughout the year and it all came down to the last race of the year in Australia and I just thought, whatever is going to happen is going to happen. 

I didn’t really know how much I liked or didn’t like Phillip Island. I’d done the eight-hour race there two years before, I won it actually, so I knew the circuit alright but I wasn’t sure if I really liked it. So going out there for once I kept my mouth shut, kept my head down and concentrated on getting the right set-up with the bike come Sunday. 

Qualifying went really well, but I didn’t get the best lap. I knew I could go quite a bit faster. So when the race came I got my head down, got into rhythm in the first race and won. That’s what I needed to do, to do all the hard work in the first race, get the points in the bag and then I would be able to control the second race.

And that’s what I did. I watched what Scott was doing. I think I was about eight points in the lead so I just sat behind him. His team-mate cleared off but I wasn’t too worried about that. I just thought sit here, Ducatis were a bit fragile back then. I just thought, keep the revs down and follow him.

He kept looking round and I thought, if he had a towel he probably would have thrown it in. He just went “you know what, this is yours!” So I came past and I wondered what he was doing at first, I thought there’s only three laps to go here, if I breakdown he wins the world title. It’s crazy what he did in a way.

Then I thought, maybe he’s going to try to knock me off or something. So I got in front of him and I was riding a bit nervous for about half a lap. I looked back and then started to pull away and then I started the last lap and I thought, as long as this thing keeps going you’re world champion and that can never be taken away. 

It was the relief and emotion again, in that two years when I should have won in 93 and the drama of the season in 94 with the broken wrist and reliability issues with the bike and then going to the other side of the world and the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the year. 

When I crossed the line I collapsed over the tank with the relief and the emotion. Winning that first world title is special, that first one never going to be taken away from you no matter how many more times you win it, no matter what happens after. That’s my favourite sporting memory. 

We were all out having a few beers that night. I remember Terry Rymer being there, James Witham, Scott Russell, Aaron Slight. We had a few beers and I seem to remember Terry Rymer jumping into the pool but he jumped in at the wrong end and smacked his nose. He dived in and it was the shallow end, not the deep end, and it could have been quite nasty to be honest but he just came up with a bloody nose. To be honest it was hard work because the emotions and the relief, you’re just totally exhausted. We had a few beers, it’s all I can remember really, and then there was the long journey and the celebrations when we got home.

It was great when I got back. There was a big turnout at Manchester airport, I didn’t expect that. There were 200-300 people there with flags and T-shirts and a few bits of press which was something I’d never experienced before. It was all new, I didn’t expect that and it was amazing to have that. 

Straight away I was down at Blackburn Rovers, I think it was the year then went on to win the Premiership [now Premier League]. They had me down there as guest of honour for the next match. It was about November time when we got back and I lit the bonfire in Blackburn for Bonfire Night. We did all of these crazy things that you didn’t expect to happen really. I just wanted to race motorbikes and win races but obviously when you win world titles the sport became quite big. I became a bit of a household name even then with the Sky coverage on TV. I wasn’t really prepared for all of that but I had to handle it and deal with it. 

I probably wasn’t the easiest to deal with it. I can deal with it a lot easier now than I could back then but I managed somehow. 

Carl Fogarty was talking to Frazer Ansell.

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